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RSF calls for a cease-fire in Sudan: peace effort or publicity stunt?

Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo in Juba, South Sudan on October 21, 2019.

Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo in Juba, South Sudan on October 21, 2019.

REUTERS/Samir Bol

The Rapid Support Forces, the dominant paramilitary group fighting in Sudan, has announced it is open to an immediate, unconditional cease-fire. Sudan’s civil war has displaced nearly 6 million people and killed more than 10,000 since it began in April 2023.


The sides: On one side we've got Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the country's army chief and de facto leader since leading the 2021 coup. On the other is his former ally and junta deputy Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, aka Hemedti, head of the RSF, a militia that grew out of the Janjaweed death squads that committed genocide in Darfur.

The declaration could be a turning point, but there is also reason to fear it is just a continuation of Hemedti’s publicity tour. When war broke out, he went into hiding for months, spurring speculations he was wounded or dead until he reappeared in a photo-op with Uganda’s president last week. Hemedti then went on to meet leaders of Ethiopia, Ghana, and Djibouti, showcasing his regional backing while trying to position himself as the next leader of Sudan.

In recent months, the RSF has made key territorial gains – including Darfur and the country’s breadbasket, Gezira. Now in control of most of the East and West of the country, it's no wonder that Hemedti thinks that the time is right to come to the negotiating table. The RSF just signed a peace agreement with the pro-civilian group the Taqadum Civilian Coalition and has invited the Sudanese Army to join.

It is unclear, however, whether the Sudanese Army will accept the invitation. Artillery fire between the RSF and the Sudanese Army has been intensifying in recent days, and past cease-fire agreements and negotiations have failed to stop the fighting or protect civilians. If the latest effort is similarly unsuccessful, famine is looming and will likely add to the mounting civilian casualties.

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